The tourism sector is gearing up for an influx of foreign visitors as Chiang Mai Airport prepares to operate round-the-clock from November. This move is expected to open up the northern region to more international tourists arriving on direct flights.
Sittipong Wongsomboon, general manager of Northern Smile Travel, stated that the average hotel occupancy rate for September had dipped to 30-35% from 70-80% in August, due to the slow period for tourism. He noted that the Chiang Mai market had adapted to target independent travellers post-pandemic, with several hotels adjusting their strategies to secure better room rates despite the reduced number of tourists.
Sittipong, who also founded the Hotels in Chiang Mai group, revealed that around 35 boutique hotels located in central Chiang Mai and related businesses had joined forces to enhance their services rather than opting for lower prices.
Their main target markets are predominantly travellers from Asia, especially those countries that have direct flight connectivity to Chiang Mai Airport. These visitors can also contribute to the revenue of other provinces in the region.
To attract these travellers, member hotels of the group have set their room rates at around 3,000 baht per night, which could rise to between 5,000-10,000 baht during the peak season, compared to the average market room rate of 800-900 baht in the province.
Sittipong said that travellers from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore led the market in terms of hotel spending. Some independent Chinese tourists are undeterred by the slow economic growth in their country.
The situation has changed from before the pandemic, when we had a lot of tourists, but hotels competed for guests by cutting their prices.”
From November 1, Chiang Mai Airport is set to operate 24 hours a day, catering to international flights after midnight and early flights before 6am.
Santisuk Klongchaiya, CEO of Thai AirAsia, mentioned that the airline is planning to increase international flights to Chiang Mai this year. Presently, Thai AirAsia has eight routes connecting the province to Hong Kong, Macau, Da Nang, Hanoi, Taipei, Singapore, and China’s Hangzhou and Beijing Daxing airports.
Santisuk said that Chiang Mai has the potential to be an aviation hub connecting Northeast Asia, as it allows short-haul aircraft with reduced flight times to reach more cities in China, Japan, and South Korea.
Chiang Mai serves as the second hub for Thai AirAsia, with Don Mueang airport being the first. The airline has stationed five aircraft at Chiang Mai airport, reported Bangkok Post.
With Thailand recently waiving visa requirements for the Chinese, there is potential for local carriers to increase flights from Chinese cities to Chiang Mai.
Local carriers currently account for 40% of the total number of seats for China routes, while Chinese airlines make up the remaining 60% due to their larger networks in China, Santisuk added.
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